Yesterday I spent my lunch break at the Guildhall Yard watching the Inter-Livery & City of London Pancake Race. This annual event has been taking place on Shrove Tuesday since 2004. Initially the idea was to bring together teams drawn from livery companies associated in some way with making and consuming pancakes (the Poulters take the eggs, the Fruiterers the lemons and the Cutlers the plastic forks). This has been broadened over time and team’s taking part this time included clockmakers, gunmakers, bricklayers, furniture makers and tax advisers. The latter were booed every time they were called out!
I got there just after noon to find half the Guildhall Yard cordoned off. Five lanes were set up in front of the Guildhall, with a frying pan on a table at the start of each lane.
A man in a bowler hat called out the participants taking part in each race. Aim of the race is to complete a short course first to get through the heats and into the final. If this sounds easy, image running in a traditional gown, wearing an apron and a chef’s hat, carrying a pancake in a frying pan and having to flip this twice along the way.
At first it seemed to be an all-male event, until I realised that there were separate races for men and women. I am not quite sure whether this was based on running speed or previous pancake flipping experience.
Two of the teams in this women’s race were disqualified for not following the rules properly. The two participants on the right apparently have an unfair advantage by not wearing their gowns!
It was a happy event, aided by warm rays of spring sunshine and eagerly supported by a crowd which seemed to include many former City worker now enjoying their retirement. There were pancakes on sale for hungry City workers and at a later stage there was a fancy dress competition between the teams.
Funds raised at the event traditionally go to the Lord Mayor’s charity, this year this is the Barts and The London Charity, on behalf of the Trauma Unit at The Royal London Hospital.